Teen Thursday: Guest Blogger Jessica Martinez on Standing Up and Speaking Out

Now is not the time for Carmen to fall in love. And Jeremy is hands-down the wrong guy for her to fall for. He is infuriating, arrogant, and the only person who can stand in the way of Carmen getting the one thing she wants most: to win the prestigious Guarneri competition. Carmen's whole life is violin, and until she met Jeremy, her whole focus was winning. But what if Jeremy isn't just hot...what if Jeremy is better?
Carmen knows that kissing Jeremy can't end well, but she just can't stay away. Nobody else understands her--and riles her up--like he does. Still, she can't trust him with her biggest secret: She is so desperate to win she takes anti-anxiety drugs to perform, and what started as an easy fix has become a hungry addiction. Carmen is sick of not feeling anything on stage and even more sick of always doing what she’s told, doing what's expected.
Sometimes, being on top just means you have a long way to fall....

Jessica Martinez's debut novel, Virtuosity, won't be out until October, but we're lucky enough to have her here with us today, sharing a lesson learned from a too-real moment from her own teen  years. Thanks so much, Jessica! 

Walking Out
I was a nice girl.  Still am.  But when I was a teenager I was the dangerous kind—the kind that would sooner die than mouth off.  Adult confrontation was avoided at any cost.  That kind of nice girl.  But there comes a moment in every girl’s life when she has to stand up for herself.  Even the nice ones.

My moment came when I was 17.  I was concertmaster of a youth orchestra, playing under a conductor I knew well and respected.  I even considered him a friend.  We were sight reading new music when I made a stupid mistake, bringing half the first violins with me.  It was embarrassing, but not fatal.  I did as I had been taught—corrected my course and kept on playing.  Or I tried, but I didn’t really have time before the conductor’s palm collided with my face, nearly knocking me out of my chair.  

In the second it took to regain my balance and put my violin back under my chin, I felt nothing.  Just shock.  Had that really just happened?  My eyes found the notes on the page and I was suddenly playing again.  I couldn’t think of another option.   

I’d been playing the violin for fourteen years, but there was no precedent for this.  I’d been yelled at plenty, but I’d never seen a student get hit, though.  Not in orchestra, or chamber music, or lesson, or masterclass, or anywhere.

The notes flew by and I kept playing them, but it was seconds before my emotions finally caught up.  Shame was the first and the heaviest.  I had just been hit in front of 70 of my peers, and I felt like a dog, slinking alongside the owner who had just kicked it. 

But I wasn’t just humiliated.  I was ticked.  I hadn’t deserved that.  Couldn’t he see I was working as hard as I could, pouring my heart into every second of this rehearsal?   Getting smacked was my thanks?  The self-pity and frustration made me want to cry, but I knew tears would only make the situation more embarrassing, so I sucked it up.

Walk out.  By the time this thought occurred to me, I’d been playing for at least a minute.  I tried to reason my way out of it—maybe I was exaggerating how hard he hit me in my mind, or maybe everyone else was too wrapped up in their music to have even seen it.

But I was old enough to know that what had happened was wrong.  At the very least it was unprofessional.  I knew I needed to stand up and walk out, because hitting me wasn’t okay, and to continue playing like nothing had happened would be telling my conductor and everyone around me that it was okay.  Staying would be telling myself that too.

Except, by the time I had thought all that through, minutes had passed.  I didn’t want to bring more attention to the whole thing, did I?  It was already over.  And where would I go?  I couldn’t just pack up and leave without my younger brother, who was still playing away with the rest of the cello section.  If I left, this would become a big deal.  There was a real possibility that my best friend and stand partner would follow me—what if other people did too and I was at the heart of some huge orchestral coup?  I didn’t want to be at the center of a mess like that, and I didn’t want my conductor to get in trouble.  If I walked out there would probably have to be an official apology and everyone would know and my parents would be told, which for whatever reason, made the whole thing ten times more humiliating.  I’d look like a brat and a prima donna. 

I wish this story ended differently. 

I didn’t leave.  I kept playing.  He muttered an apology the next time there was a break in the music, and then found me after rehearsal to give me a sincere apology, because he was, as I’d guessed, mortified that he had done such a thing.  The huge mess that I had feared would erupt just fizzled and died, because I sat there and didn’t make a big deal.  One could argue I did the mature thing.

But.  I don’t think I did.  To this day, every time I replay the moment (and it is often) I wish I had walked out.  Afterwards I was disgusted with myself for being so spineless, and it took a while to recover from that hit to my self-esteem.  Not because of what he did, but because of what I didn’t do.  I never want to feel that way again.

As an adult, I occasionally catch myself on the cusp of being bullied into an engine flush when I just want an oil change, or getting talked into lowlights when I really do want to go blond, and I’ll summon the memory of that moment for strength.  Not the moment that I was hit.  The afterwards.  The regret.  It’s good fuel, because, nice girl that I am, I never want to give someone permission to push me around again. 

Sometimes standing up for ourselves - which should be the most basic instinct we have, right? - is the absolute hardest thing to do. Here's a picture of Jessica at age 17, when her story takes place: 

 And Jessica now, much less likely to take any drama: 
And I know I'm for sure going to keep Jessica's story in mind the next time someone tries to push me around!


Lisa Schroeder said...

Wow. What a story. I don't think I'd have been able to walk out either. It's always easier to look back and think, I should have...

I can't wait to read your book!!!

Lydia Sharp said...

As a fellow violinist, I can't imagine going through that. Wow. The worst that one of my conductors ever did to me was yell in my face, and that was in his office, not in public.

I was the "nice" girl, too. And unfortunately, I think I would have done exactly what you did, thought the same thoughts, and had the same regrets later. Sad but true.

Thanks so much for sharing this. *hugs*

Denise Jaden said...

Now I want to read Virtuosity EVEN MORE. Hmm, maybe it's time to catch up with editrixanica!

Ashley @ Book Labyrinth said...

Wow, that is insane. It's sad and horrible that someone would do that! And it's totally hard in those moments to figure out what to do. I was always shy growing up and I still don't like rocking the boat if I don't have to. But I've definitely learned to stand up for myself as well. I've seen people in my own life be walked all over and I never want that to be me. It's such a hard thing to do, but it's important.

Thanks for sharing your story, Jessica. =)

Jessica Martinez said...

Thanks everyone! Good to know I'm not the only recovering doormat out there. And I'm glad you're excited for Virtuosity!

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